Survey: diversity and representation in Dutch film and audiovisual sector below par
Movie and series makers of colour are less likely to be employed than white makers, have shorter tenures and are less likely to work in leadership positions. They experience the film and AV sector as not very inclusive. Those who do experience the sector as inclusive are above average age, often male, and in leadership positions. This is shown in research on ethnic diversity in front of and behind the scenes of films and series. The research was conducted by associate professor of Media Studies Vincent Crone togetter with ten students on behalf of the Ministry of Culture (OCW).
White narrative perspective is dominant
On the positive side, ethnic diversity in the film and AV sector seems broadly representative of the ethnic diversity of Dutch society. But once zoomed in, the reality is unruly. The white narrative perspective is comparatively overrepresented.
Thus, the researchers write in the report ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’: “Looking at the stories on screen, the proportion of supporting characters of colour in fiction productions turns out to be lower than might be expected based on the percentage of people of colour in Dutch society.”
“In non-fiction, on the contrary, there is an overrepresentation of characters of colour. The white narrative perspective is overrepresented within productions relative to the ethnic diversity of Dutch society.”
A particular group may be visible in the media, but this does not necessarily mean that that group recognises itself in that form of visibility.
Visibility is not the same as representation
The study found that white older professionals in leadership roles in particular rated diversity and inclusiveness most positively. The researchers write: “Given their position, they should be the ones to put the issue on the agenda. However, this is a difficult task when they themselves do not see the problem.”
One of the students who contributed to the study is Nour Hassoumi, from Language and Cultural Studies. “Visibility is not the same as representation,” she says. A certain group may be visible in the media, but this does not necessarily mean that that group identifies with it and recognises itself. It is therefore important to look further into what representation actually is.
Female characters of colour often absent in fiction productions
In fiction productions, the proportion of supporting characters of colour is lower than might be expected based on the share of people of colour in the Netherlands. Characters of colour are often young and male. Female characters of colour and stories from their narrative perspective are almost absent.
To assess how ethnically-diverse and inclusive the final productions are, a representative sample of 100 Dutch productions (films, series, documentaries) was reviewed. Furthermore, interviews were conducted with makers from diverse backgrounds and a literature review was conducted. This included drawing on previous research by Willemien Sanders, among others.
Research can contribute to diversity and inclusion
Student Izy Dekker also participated in the research, which, as far as she is concerned, teaches people to look differently at films and series: “I think bringing more attention to diversity and inclusion can also be an eye-opener for the viewer. This research can teach you to watch productions more consciously. What do you notice? By looking closely at specific roles, characters, stereotypes or locations, you see that there is more being told than you would think at first glance.”
Research commissioned by the ministry of OCW
The study is a so-called baseline measurement: this is the first survey of the Dutch film and av sector in this field. This study on diversity and inclusiveness in the film- and AV industry was commissioned by the Ministry of OCW this spring. Together with Dutch Academy for Film (DAFF) and Stichting KLEUR, the Netherlands Film Fund was part of the supervisory committee. The report titled “You can’t be what you can’t see” can be found here.